Guatemala says Odebrecht agrees to pay $17.9 million over bribes

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht has agreed to pay Guatemala $17.9 million in compensation for bribes paid to an official for public work, the attorney general’s office of the Central American nation said on Wednesday.

Odebrecht has been accused of using bribes in several Latin American countries to win lucrative business, and in 2016 company executives admitted making illicit payments to secure a Guatemalan highway contract in 2012.

An investigation by Brazilian and Guatemalan prosecutors with the U.N.-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) revealed this month that ex-infrastructure minister Alejandro Sinibaldi had agreed to take $19.5 million to arrange for Odebrecht to secure the $300 million contract.

In the end, Sinibaldi, who has been fugitive since mid-2016, received $17.9 million, the investigation found.

Guatemalan attorney general Thelma Aldana told a news conference that Odebrecht had agreed to pay Guatemala that sum as a result of its “illicit actions”.

Representatives for Odebrecht could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore